Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 04/18/12

Ken here, filling in for Grant this week with the flagship Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews. This week I take a look at Batman #8, Punisher #10, and some more quick shot reviews. It's a good week for comics, so hit the jump to find out my thoughts on what was released.

Written by Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Art by Greg Capullo & Rafael Albuquerque

Here we are, the first event level story to come from the DCnU, as well as the debut of the backup feature for the title. When I first heard about it, the event seemed unnecessary, because how can you create an event in a world the readers are just getting acquainted with? It seems that Snyder has taken this into consideration, as the issue reads much more like Batman #8 than Night of the Owls part 1.

The story opens with a still injured Bruce felling a little mopey after realizing the Wayne name might not be the one actually shaping Gotham. No time to have the ego bruised, as Talons come flying in to finish the job. Commence the fighting. The issue then becomes a fight for survival, as we get Bruce moving about the whole mansion while Alfred hunkers down in the cave. This is where Capullo really shines, as fight scenes are condensed on the page from location to location. As I mentioned in the Moments of the Week post, we get to see Bruce showing us some of the other hidden passages throughout the house, including a chimney-to-Batcave one-way slide. That probably scared Santa quite a bit the year it got installed. By issue's end, Bruce just does for the big guns, and in doing so it seems to get the point across that the event is supposed to be at a rapid pace to actually take place in a night. Sometimes, like in the case of Blackest Night or Secret Invasion, it felt like time was distorted in how the story played out. Was that just a few hours, or a day or two? Weeks? Here we know it's been a matter of minutes from home invasion to heavy hitting defense.

The backup, co-written by Snyder and Tynion, isn't as powerful as the main story but it delivers a solid justification for all the other bat-books (sans Batwoman) to connect to the event. Bruce isn't the only one to get sentenced to death this night, but all the major players in the city are sentenced to die, and it becomes a matter for Alfred to get the word out to the bat-clan in time. Albuquerque takes over the backup work, and it seems much more like his work for Uncanny X-Force a while back, with a stronger value placed on black and line thickness.

Verdict - Must Read.  It's not as strong as previous Batman issues in terms of really providing some strong character moments of big time reveals that really connect, but at this point it's like saying you're getting gold instead of platinum with Snyder and Capullo. The backup works to elaborate on the story while setting up Alfred's future stories, and I feel much more comfortable with this event going forward.

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Marco Checchetto

Part 2 of the Omega Effect crossover between Spider-Man, Punisher, and Daredevil sees the plan to destroy the omega drive put into effect, and it's result isn't what you would expect. The story pulls a twist that doesn't make you go "wow!" although it's established well enough within the issue itself that it works. After all, this is the Punisher book, so it only makes sense he doesn't get shown up in his own title.

The issue works well in being accessible to both the current Punisher reader and the newcomer picking up the book because of the crossover. Frank and Rachel's relationship is explored and expanded upon while Spider-Man and Daredevil still feel uneasy working with Frank. Daredevil does his best to try and make Rachel not become Punisher Jr., and the body count in Matt's life allows a credence to his words that makes the scene much more understandable than some other characters out there.

The scenes between Spidey and Frank are really strong, as Spidey isn't in full on joke mode, and Frank's willingness to just listen and not respond to the banter is a nice change of pace. You can't get caught in the smart-alec web if you don't walk forward. One thing the story does well by having Frank act this way is to also continue the way the series has been written since the beginning, where Frank doesn't talk a lot, he just does his job, no matter who is in his way and the reader is along for the ride. When Frank bestows upon Rachel her own Punisher painted body armor, we don't need him to say anything, and the scene plays out the better for it.

Checchetto's art is nice and clean, and while Frank continues to look more like Solid Snake than Frank Castle, the story delivers nice talking moments and action.

Verdict - Buy It. The issue works for fans of every character involved, and is moving at a pace where it doesn't read like a needless cash grab crossover which is too prevalent these days. Add a decent cliffhanger for the final part next week in Daredevil #11, and it looks like this isn't a story that will just be ignored in a month or two.

Quick Shot Reviews

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #2 - Three issues in (I'm counting the #0), and we get to the reason for the books title. There's a few interesting fights here, like Dr. Strange vs. Magik, Wolverine vs. the Utopia X-Men, and Quicksilver vs. Magneto, but they aren't given enough screen time to really mean anything. And those aren't even the fights to be expanded upon in AvX: Vs, so it just becomes teases that never go anywhere. The book has a lot of other problems, like the continuing weak conflict between Cap and Cyclops, and scenes like Storm and Black Panther meeting each other on the battlefield makes it seem like the two aren't a loving married couple, and haven't even seen each other in months, even though Storm would be in NYC because she just joined the Avengers. Jason Aaron does his best to channel a classic sense in the narration boxes about how important this fight should feel,  but I just don't see a reason for it to exist. Usually events start out strong and then sputter out as the issues move along, so when you're already starting from a lower position like the previous issues have done, it just has lower to fall.

Verdict - Skip It.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #2 - fast forward a few years after the last issue, as we come to the final days of WWII, and it becomes a priority to get those German scientists before the Soviets. This scientist in particular? Wernher von Braun, mister rocket man, who cares about nothing but the advancement of science. And in this story, he's got a robotic arm that mimics something out of an anime show. The main character this issue switches to Richard Feynman, world class physicist and narcissist, who isn't as completely gone as von Braun or even Oppenheimer from last issue. And of course we have Einstein stealing every scene he's in. Pitarra's art shines, as every panel feels like it's being used and the characters emote the way they should. This is shaping up to be one of those series that changes our knowledge of things just enough to tell a great story, much like SHIELD.

Verdict - Must Read.

UNCANNY X-FORCE #24 - After the rather shocking death last issue, things don't slow down at all for the series, as we see half the team help Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler go after AoA Iceman and kill him once and for all, while Fantomex and Psylocke deal with the aftermath of what was done in issue #23. It's mainly Nightcrawler's issue, as we see that even though he served with Bobby for years, and Bobby was his friend, Kurt's conviction to vengeance won't bend, resulting in an ending that carries real weight that you don't get in other series. Art this issue comes from Phil Noto, who works rather well for an issue that is half action, half talking heads. Dean White's coloring also helps the book maintain a consistent look. Despite everything involved this issue, it was one of the lighter stories told, as we get ready for another arc that promises another big death. And you know what, with Remender writing, it feels like it will actually mean something.

Verdict - Buy It.

Thanks for putting up with me this week, as Grant returns next Sunday. Have any thoughts about this week's reviews or other notable issues you read this week? Hit the comments below and let us know!

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Manhattan projects, Batman, Punisher, Uxf, and Wonder Woman were the best.


Thanks for the kind words about MP!

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